February 18, 2014
OK, Here Goes...
I read all the kind, 5 star reviews of this show, for both the first and second set (which for whatever reason are presented as separate artifacts), and tried to get into the groove with those opines, but there are two glairing obstacles preventing me from loving this first set (said with some bias as I knew the venue quite well):
For one, the soundman ruined the audio for posterity by being untrained and unprepared for the venue and the performance. It shouldn't take the first two songs to set the mix up; this should have all been done well ahead during the sound check. Usually the lead song is a throwaway: "Promised Land" in this case, as it is on a lot of DP's and DvP's I've listened to, but is ruined here for everyone in the audience and thus all tapes forever pretty grimly. Oh well, it is what it is. But blown again is "Candyman" which would have been a little gem if it wasn't ruined at the start (no Garcia??). OK so we can't turn the clock back. But the crowd reaction to the blown sound and kind of sour vibe and low expectations thereafter traced its way on through the rest of the performance, which I detected in Weir and Garcia's voicing's. (You could tell they were P.O.ed the rest of the set.)
Secondly, MSA had the weirdest acoustics of any arena around, with a tricky bounce to fight and EQ for. Imagine the world's largest tin can set in and atop a concrete bowl. Every concert save one that I ever went to there was mixed too loud and was un-enjoyable. (IIRC Elton John '83 or 4 was an exception.) So what you had in effect was a heavy reverb laden high-mid peaking sound that really shows in the AUD, and worked against the performers attempt to create expressively meaningful music with the excessive feedback loop of a loud 2-3 second delay in their ears they constantly had to endure the whole show. By the time I saw the GD here almost three years later some of the sound issues were resolved but Jean and Keith were gone, both of whom were astonishingly standouts in this middling '79 show. Keith's piano is clear in the mix (which by typical GD standards is way too high). Anyway, FWIW, my two cents. Thanks for the posting.